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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Mystery: The Icebox Murders

A photo of Charles from his time in the Navy. This was over a decade before the murders.

Today’s story is one that’s been on my to-do list for a little under a year now. I’ve tried to start it up several times, but I’ve never managed to complete it; I’ve either hit a roadblock while covering it, something came up that occupied my time, or I simply wasn’t satisfied with what I had. That changes today though! It’s time we cover what I consider one of the most bizarre unsolved murders in American history. This is the story of the Icebox Murders. Get ready because this story is as gruesome as it is confounding.

The Story

Our story takes place in Houston, Texas back on June 23, 1965. Marvin Rogers had contacted the police out of concern for his aunt and uncle, Fred and Edwina, as they hadn’t been answering his telephone calls. As such, two officers went to their phone in the Montrose neighborhood and knocked on their door. When no one came to answer the door, they broke in and immediately noticed something strange.

The house smelled of bleach.

The officers searched the house, likely feeling a bit sick from the odor of the bleach, but found no sign of Fred, Edwina, or their son, Charles. There was food set out on the dining room table though, which would indicate that the family had at least had the intention of eating. During their search, one of the officers checked the refrigerator and discovered a lot of meat—which he suspected was from a pig or hog—that had been washed and unwrapped. As he was about to close the door though, the officer noticed something in the vegetable bin: two human heads. These two heads belonged to Fred and Edwina. As for the pork, that was the dismembered limbs and torsos of the elderly couple. As for their organs, authorities later discovered most of them in a nearby sewer; they’d been removed, sliced up, and then flushed down the toilet. Not all of Fred and Edwina’s remains were found though and while I cannot find the specifics on what wasn’t found, they were never found in the sewer, house, or property.

While the remains of Fred and Edwina had been discovered—with the date of their murders being placed three days prior on June 20, there was someone whose body was missing from the home-turned-butchery: Charles. Authorities immediately zeroed in on him having been the one behind the murders and there was a fair bit of evidence to implicate him. For starters, the only blood found in the house was in his bedroom; some of which was on a keyhole saw that police determined was used to dismember his parents, albeit posthumously. Fred was killed by several blows from a claw hammer to the head. His eyes were also gouged out and his genitalia were removed. As for Edwina, she was beaten and then shot in the head, execution style. Oddly, nobody reported hearing a gunshot.

As for the dismemberment, it was determined that someone “with some knowledge of anatomy” had done so, though I’ve personally never been able to find anything which states that Charles ever had this training or understanding. In spite of this, a warrant was issued for his arrest and the hunt was on for him.

Now here’s where things get weird. When neighbors were asked about the Rogers family, they stated that they were a nice couple, but when asked about Charles, they were baffled and said that Fred and Edwina had no idea they even had a son—or that he lived with him.

Indeed, Charles was an extremely reclusive man. Those that knew him described him as being an extremely intelligent man; he’d earned a Bachelor's degree in the field of nuclear science. He served in the United States Navy as a pilot during World War II and in the Office of Naval Intelligence. Once the war ended, he took up a job as a seismologist for Shell Oil, which he worked for for nine years. However, in 1957, he quit without ever giving an explanation. Some believe that the reason for his departure was due to his alleged association with a man named David Ferrie, who some believed was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. More on this in a bit though.

While Charles’ life was generally one that would be seen as rather successful, this was anything but the case. Back at home, his relationship with his parents was extremely odd. Reportedly, Charles wouldn’t speak to his parents directly. Rather, he would slip notes under doors to talk to each other. This is definitely an odd relationship to have with his parents, but it doesn’t really explain why he killed them. Some speculate he just snapped, though have some much more colorful theories.

That’s where we loop back to David Ferrie. Reportedly, Charles met him after he joined the Civil Air Patrol. There’s a theory that’s circulated thanks to a book called “The Man on the Grassy Knoll”. Published in 1992 by John R. Craig and Phillip A. Rogers (no relation), the two men claim that Rogers worked for the CIA. Going by the brief summary that I can find on Wikipedia, Charles impersonated Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City. and, along with a man named Charles Harrelson, was one of two gunmen that killed President Kennedy.

So why kill his parents?

Well, Craig and Rogers claimed that Edwina ended up finding out about her son’s terrible second life by tracking his phone calls. Because of this, Charles had to dispose of his parents and did so by butchering his family and presumably making sure that there was no sign of a crime. At least, that’s what I’d suspect. Most people disregard this theory, though the claim that the CIA was involved in Kennedy’s death is something that’s been around since the beginning. As for Charles’ involvement with the CIA as an agent, there’s never been any proof of that, though he did work with contract workers that were a part of the CIA when he was a seismologist.

Those aren’t the only two theories that involve the motivation in regards to why Charles slaughtered his parents. Another theory—which comes from Hugh and Martha Gardenier—relates back to Charles having money stolen from him and that Fred physically abusive. This is a stark contrast to the description of Fred and Edwina being “nice”, but it doesn’t end there. Not only did they abuse him and steal from him, but both Fred and Edwina were involved in seedy activities like gambling, acting as bookies, and fraud. It’s also been noted that the house where the three lived was in Charles’ name, not Fred and Edwina’s. As such, the two kindly, elderly people were acting as leeches to their son, who they abused.

This, in theory, could explain the extremely grisly nature of the murders. While I’m no psychologist, pent up anger, rage, and hatred can manifest in some terrifying ways. It’s possible that he went completely mad and years (or decades) of abuse poured out in one horrific act of violence.

As for what happened for Charles after the murders, the Gardenier’s posit that Charles was aided across the border from the United States to Mexico by “powerful friends”, which he’d made through a ham radio hobby he’d gotten into during his time working for oil and mining companies. After fleeing the country, he made his way to Honduras where he was, ironically, murdered himself during a dispute over the wages for miners.

These are, of course, merely two theories. Charles was never found and he was declared legally dead in July of 1975 in absentia. To this day, not a single trace has ever been found of him and there isn’t even a photograph that would’ve even been deemed “recent” of him at the time of the murders. For all intents and purposes, Charles was a phantom. So what happened to him after the murders? Well, there are two theories and we’ll go over them—albeit briefly.


1. Charles fled the country and died

There are only two theories today. The first is that Charles fled the country and went to Mexico where he lived out his days until he died or was murdered himself. While I’d normally say that this theory is only popular among those who think that Charles was involved in the assassination of Kennedy, my experiences have said otherwise. It seems a fair number of people think that he fled to Mexico regardless of his friendly neighborhood Central Intelligence Agency background. Though not everyone thinks he was murdered; some think he just lived out his life in secrecy until he died (if he is, which is highly likely given he’d be nearing 100-years-old).

2. Charles stayed in the country and lived out his life in secrecy

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the theory that Charles stated in the United States, living out his days in secrecy until his death—unless he, once again, is still alive. There’s extremely little more to it than that, largely thanks to how little ever came of this case. There haven’t been any sightings of Charles in the time since the murders and as such, we’re left to only speculate. As such, that’s there the theories end. I know, anticlimactic, but that’s the reality of it all.

My Take

This case is one of the most baffling because there’s next to nothing that I can find about it beyond what’s been known for decades. With that said, I also think it’s fascinating: it’s exceedingly likely that we know how committed the crime and how, but where he went is in of itself a mystery. That’s nothing really novel though, there are other cases like that out there. We discussed one last year in the form of Robert Fisher’s story and we’ll discuss one this December when we cover William Bradford Bishop. However, unlike those two, there’s never been any sightings of Charles Rogers. He vanished off the face of the Earth like a ghost. Such a factor would make the possibility of CIA training rather likely, though that’s just me.

Anyways, in my opinion, I think that Charles was the one behind his parents' murders. Their relationship was strained and Charles likely wanted out of the whole ordeal or snapped. Though why the murders were so grisly, I have no idea. I don’t think they’d discovered anything about his ties to the assassination of President Kennedy—nor do I think Charles had anything to do with that event. While I do think it’s probable that there were two shooters, I doubt that Charles was the other shooter. Charles wasn’t trained as a sniper and I doubt that he was trained to be a sniper while also flying a plane in World War II. That seems really peculiar in my eyes, but what do I know? I can’t even handle a butterknife without slicing my fingers.

True story by the way.

Anyways, as for fleeing to Mexico, I think that’s possible, though I don’t think he did that. I think he remained in the states and likely lived out his life in secrecy. I also doubt he’s still alive; he’d be 98-years-old as of the time of this writing and given the rampaging Coronavirus, I doubt that he’d be surviving on his own unless he’s in exceptionally good care. As for why I don’t think he fled to Mexico, I must admit that that’s my own speculation. Charles was a reclusive man; I doubt anyone outside of his neighborhood would’ve known of him. There also wasn’t a photograph of him that was “recent”. So it’s probable he changed his appearance and lived a life as a nobody until he found a location that he was able to settle down in. That is, of course, just my theory.


This story is without a doubt one of my favorite unsolved mysteries because of how short and enigmatic it is. There’s little to go on, which opens the door to a lot of speculation, all of which leads into various strange, terrifying realms; conspiracy, shadowy villains, and terrifying figures lurk around every corner. It’s a lot like the Hinterkaifeck case in my eyes, but considerably more grisly. As such, I would love to know what you believe happened to the Rogers family. Do you believe that their son was the killer—and was possibly involved in the assassination of President Kennedy? Or do you think only the former was likely? Or was it someone else and Rogers was a victim himself? Tell me in the comments below—and make sure to check under your bed for the CIA.

1 comment:

  1. Anything or maybe nothing could be true, theory wise. That's the issue, there's just so little information here to go off of. Charles himself has simply just vanished even.

    And it's doubtful he's going to talk to us about what really happened that night. But yeah, the most likely theory is Charles fled, got lucky with changing his whole life, and died of old age.